In 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau released 2010 Census data on a state-by-state basis throughout February and March. The new numbers show that the Latino population in the United States, which historically has been concentrated in the Southwest, has continued to grow rapidly and has geographically expanded into such regions as the Deep South and Midwest that are not typically associated with Latinos.
In the excerpt below, scholar Nicolás Kanellos provides historical context for the issue of Latino immigration and discusses the potential political, social, and cultural implications of immense Latino population growth.
The complex issues of Hispanic immigration and population growth have their roots in the 19th-century expansion of the American Republic by conquest and/or purchase of lands from Spain and Mexico. As a consequence, the United States incorporated a resident population of Spanish-speaking Catholics who were seen as racially different, if not inferior, by Americans who rapidly and overwhelmingly spread into former Hispanic lands and came to dominate their inhabitants. In addition to safeguarding early trade and commercial ties to Latin America by proclaiming such edicts as the Monroe Doctrine, the developing nation needed a cheap alternative to slave labor after the Civil War; the most efficient and wildly popular remedy for the next century and a half was to import cheap labor from the neighboring countries of Latin America. . . . Thus, economic and political policies that were set in motion shortly after the founding of the United States have continued to transform the country into a nation of immigrants and their offspring. When U.S. foreign policy and trade within the Americas influenced the internal economies and politics of Latin America, the migrant streams naturally targeted the "Colossus of the North" as the preferred destination.
It was this pattern established long ago that continues to dominate current population trends, as the comparative wealth and opportunity up north attracts migrants from the south, whose U.S.-born children transform the U.S. national landscape. . . . The implications of such dramatic changes in the ethnic/racial constituencies of the nation include changes in social and education policy, a new relationship between national identity and language, especially in education and public service, and even a re-writing of the nation's history to more accurately reflect the truth about the development of the United States as an industrial and economic power.
Read Dr. Kanellos's full commentary by checking out the March Feature Story, "New Census Data Point to Latino Political Gains," on the Latino American Experience. If you are not already a subscriber, click here for a free trial.
José María Mantero
Through an analysis that incorporates historical research, existing legislation, and economic trends and statistics, and explores U.S. Southern and Latin American literatures, religious customs, the construction of a U.S. Southern identity, current events such as Hurricane Katrina, present tensions, and personal experience, Latinos and the U.S. South offers a window into how Latinos are adapting to an emblematic yet often overlooked region of the United States and the possible parallels between the two.
Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, Editor
The overlooked history and the debates over new immigration from Mexico and Central America are illuminated by this first state-by-state history of people termed Latinos or Hispanics. Much of this information is hard to find and has never been researched before. Students and other readers will be able to trace the Latino presence through time per state through a chronology and historical overview and read about noteworthy Latinos in the state and the cultural contributions Latinos have made to communities in that state. Taken together, a more complete picture of Latinos emerges.